Sleep : Important for Mind and Body

Sleep : Important for Mind and Body

We all have nights where we find it hard to fall asleep, find ourselves waking up in the night or have dreams that disturb our sleep. This is perfectly normal. Often, these problems will resolve themselves after a short period of time. Almost everyone has trouble sleeping once in a while – worries from the day have a tendency to stick in your brain and spill over into the night, and keep you from mentally taking the break your brain needs to recharge. If poor sleep is having a significant impact on your daily life, you will generally be considered to have a sleep problem. An uncontrollable wandering mind plays a key role in primary insomnia, according to a new study that links the sleep disorder with attention problems when awake.

Insomnia is, unfortunately, a common sleep disorder that can be short-term or ongoing. It can be the symptom or side effect of another problem, or its own distinct disorder.  Brain scans of insomniacs have revealed how regions of the brain associated with wandering thoughts do not shut down when the brain is given complex tasks, making sufferers put more effort into daytime jobs than healthy sleepers.

There are many common approaches that one can try to get rid of insomnia from life. The key is to success, however, is discipline!

Some common habits that can cause insomnia:

  • Eat a late dinner (less than 3 hours before sleep)
  • Have caffeine less than 5 hours before sleep
  • Watch tv or stare at the computer screen before bed. Bright lights activate your nervous system and can cause insomnia.
  • Have heavy, spicy, or fatty meal for dinner. Digestion takes up a lot of energy. While digesting, your body is active and you may be forced to stay awake along with your working belly.
  • With social life and tv shows being on everyone’s to do list in the evening, we got disconnected from the original harmonious existence with nature. Going against the law of nature has its price. According to ayurveda most people should go to bed before 10pm to get the most restful sleep.

Some common remedies (Ayurvedic too) that one can try are listed below:

  • One of the simplest and most effective ways to induce sleep is to rub some oil on the scalp and the soles of the feet before going to bed. Use sesame oil, brahmi oil, jasmine oil, or coconut oil and massage gently for a few minutes. Slightly warming the oil before applying is helpful.
  • Drink a cup of warm almond milk before going to bed.
  • Have a vata-pacifying dinner: include foods that are warm, moist, and grounding. Avoid eating dry or raw foods, and drinking ice-cold beverages.
  • Give yourself a positive affirmation, let go of the negative ‘I can’t sleep’. Positive affirmations to try: I sleep like a baby, I sleep well, my sleep is restful and nourishing to my body
  • Chamomile tea is caffeine free and is a traditional remedy for insomnia.
  • Valerian root is great to relieve stress and induce relaxation. It is available in tea or drops form at most health foods stores.
  • Grind coconut, jaggery and few poppy seeds. Boil and add little milk. Drink. This reduces body pain and gives good night sleep.
  • Try a guided relaxation before sleep. One can practice below mentioned yoga poses to keep mind calm and body to relax.
  • Nutmeg: Nutmeg can help induce sleep. Apply a fine paste made of nutmeg powder mixed with an equal amount of ghee around your eyes and on your forehead before bed to help you fall asleep.

How much sleep one’s body need?

Your sleep needs as determined by your Ayurvedic body type:

  • Vata = 6-7 hours
  • Pitta = 7-8 hours
  • Kapha = 8-9 hours

Yoga poses that can help to get sleep:

1. Seated Forward Bend:

What it does: This relaxing pose is calming and restorative. It also can help improve digestion. If digestive issues are keeping you up or waking you at night, this can help.

Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, focusing on sitting up as straight as possible. Inhale, and raise your arms over your head, flexing your feet as you dive forward. Grab on to your feet, ankles, calves, or thighs. Do not worry about how far you go. When you feel a gentle stretch in the backs of your legs, you have gone far enough to get the benefits of this pose. Keep your back as straight as you can, and stay here for 10-12 slow breaths.

  1. Bridge Pose:

What it does: A back bend might not seem like a sleep-inducing pose, but it can actually help you calm down and prepare for sleep. Inversions like bridge pose alleviate stress, which is one of the major factors that can contribute to insomnia.

Start by lying on your back, then bend your knees, drawing your feet in, so that they’re flat on the floor right by your bottom. On your next inhale, press down with your feet and your arms to raise your bottom off of the floor. Use your inner thigh muscles to keep your legs from falling out to the sides, and clasp your hands together. Squeeze your shoulder blades together gently, and breathe in this posture for 10-15 slow breaths, then slowly release your back onto the floor.

  1. Reclining Bound Angle Pose:

What it does: This is a relaxation pose that stretches your legs and reduces stress to help you sleep better and more deeply. It’s especially beneficial if racing thoughts or a restless body are keeping you awake.

Start in a seated position, with your feet touching each other. Lean back, so one elbow is on the floor, then lower yourself down so that your back is resting on the floor, and focus on rolling your shoulders back and pulling your shoulder blades together. Your arms should be in a neutral position, palms up, like in the photo. Close your eyes and breathe, staying in this posture for as long as you like. You can use a blanket or bolster to support your feet, like in the photo above, if necessary. You can also tuck pillows or folded blankets under your knees or thighs, if you feel like you need more support there.

  1. Shoulder Stand:

What it does: A basic inversion like shoulder stand helps you slow down and relax. This posture calms the mind and relieves leg and foot soreness that might be keeping you awake.

Begin by lying on your back, then bring your knees into your chest. Place your arms flat on the floor, so that your hands extend past your bottom, palms on the floor. Push with your arms, and curl your spine to bring your legs straight up into the air. Bend your elbows, and place your hands on your lower back to support yourself in this posture. If you find shoulder stand too intense, try Legs  Up the Wall instead. It is a simpler variation with many of the same benefits.

  1. Shavasana:

What it does: This pose may not seem like much, but the practice of lying still and letting your body soak in the poses you just practiced helps prepare your brain for rest and relaxation.

Lie on your back with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms in a neutral palms-up position by your sides. Close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Notice how your belly gently rises and falls as you inhale and exhale. Concentrate on center or middle of your eye brows and feel relaxed.

Simple diet and lifestyle rules keeps human nervous system and body balanced and healthy, while turning sleep into what it originally is meant to be – time to restore and recharge.

References:

1)  http://www.homeveda.com/

2) http://holisticonline.com/

 Image courtesy: http://www.mensenkennis.be/

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